LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Just days into the school year, the Jefferson County Public School district has confirmed dozens of COVID-19 cases in students and staff.
When the district returned to class Wednesday, there were 29 positive cases; none of those people attended class that day. And 126 students were already in quarantine. By the end of the first day, 190 students and 13 staff were quarantined.
Now, at the end of the week, 63 total students and 15 staff members have tested positive. A total of 253 students and 13 staff are quarantined.
To some degree, JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio and other school district leaders say increases are to be expected, but where do they, and parents, draw the line?
School Board member Joseph Marshall, who represents District 4, says it's about perspective.
"For a district our size, the best case is zero cases. But I think all of us knew coming back into a school year fully open, with a brand new variant that is highly contagious, I think I look at these numbers with some optimism," Marshall said.
Marshall says it's about reacting quickly, pinpointing the issue, and constantly evaluating whether changes to safety measures need to be made.
"If spread is happening within our buildings, or are these student cases and quarantines of staff that we're seeing happening from activity outside the building," Marshall said.
These are answers JCPS leaders admit may only become more clear as the school year moves forward, and as they have further conversations with local health officials.
Some have asked whether more district-wide virtual learning (NTI) days should be added. Right now, JCPS has 10 of those days to use if, and when, necessary.
Marshall says he rather not go in that direction, if possible, because of the value of kids learning inside the classroom.
The district says it gets alerts from the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness when a case is confirmed at a school. The district then notifies families and staff with as much information as possible.
JCPS put multiple measures in place to help prevent the spread of the virus in schools. Some of those measures include universal masking in school buildings, assigned seating, enhanced cleaning, ventilation systems, and social distancing when possible.
COVID-19 testing is also available for JCPS students and staff. With consent from a guardian, symptomatic students can be tested at school. Diagnostic testing for those without symptoms is available weekly.
Unvaccinated students who come in contact with a positive case will be required to quarantine, even if they were wearing a mask. Vaccinated students who come in contact with a positive case will not be required to quarantine if they don't have symptoms.
The safety protocols help the district with contact tracing, as well as reducing the number of people who have to quarantine when a case in confirmed.
Students in quarantine will be able to continue learning through a virtual program.
For more information on the district's back-to school plan, COVID-19 testing, and case numbers, visit jefferson.kyschools.us.